When your spleen becomes unmanageable in one way or another, the procedure in which a surgeon removes it from your body is known as a splenectomy.
Your spleen is a wedge-shaped organ in the upper left part of your abdomen. The spleen is in charge of filtering out harmful substances from your blood, creating white blood cells, removing worn-out red blood cells from your circulation, and maintaining a reserve blood supply for your body.
When You Need A Splenectomy
The most common situation that necessitates a splenectomy is when your spleen ruptures for one reason or another. Whether it ruptures because of abdominal injury or the wear and tear of old age, a ruptured spleen can be a very dangerous and possibly life-threatening situation. When your spleen breaks open, your blood pours into your abdominal area. Depending on the size of the rupture, a large amount of internal bleeding could occur.
If you suffer from any of the following diseases and conditions, you will need to have your spleen removed:
- Cancer – If you have Hodgkins lymphoma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, or lymphocytic or hairy cell leukemia you may need a splenectomy.
- Cysts or Tumors – Even if they are noncancerous, cysts and tumors in your spleen may require a splenectomy if they are large or difficult to remove.
- Blood disorders – If you suffer from idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, sickle cell anemia, thalassemia or polycythemia vera, and other treatments have failed to reduce your symptoms, you will need to have a splenectomy.
- Enlarged spleen – If your spleen is enlarged you will experience pain or a feeling of fullness. You may need a splenectomy to remove the spleen and ease your discomfort.
- Infection – If you have a severe infection or a large collection of pus surrounded by inflammation (abscess) in your spleen, you may require a splenectomy if your infection doesn’t respond to other treatments.
Preparing for a Splenectomy
To prepare for a splenectomy you may need to:
- Avoid eating or drinking for a certain amount of time.
- Receive blood transfusions to make sure you have enough blood cells after spleen removal.
- Receive a pneumococcal vaccine or other vaccines to help prevent infection.
- Temporarily stop taking certain medications or supplements.
Splenectomy is usually performed laparoscopically, where a surgeon uses a tiny video camera at the end of a tube and some special surgical tools to remove your spleen. After he or she makes the initial incisions, the surgeon goes in and loosens the attachments that connect your spleen to your colon with a thermal energy device. The heat from this device breaks down the tissues and attachments between your spleen and colon. The doctor will use this device again to break the attachments between your spleen and your stomach, as well as your spleen and your pancreas. The doctor cuts down your arteries and veins that connect your spleen to the organs that surround it. These veins are stapled at the ends. This separation allows your spleen to decompress, cutting off the blood supply going into it before it is totally devitalized. To remove your spleen, the surgeon places it in a specimen retrieval bag that is inside your body. The retrieval bag is brought up next to your umbilicus where it is broken up into small pieces and removed through the port made in your abdomen. Before the surgery can be considered over, he or she will make sure the inside of your abdomen is clean and free of excess blood, surgical instruments, or pieces of removed tissues and veins.
Risks and Complications
- Potential risks and complications are rare in a splenectomy, but they are similar to the risks involved in any surgical procedure. Risks and complications such as:
- Blood Clots
- Injury to nearby organs– the colon, pancreas, and stomach
After splenectomy, you have a higher chance of contracting serious infections, because your spleen plays a crucial role in your body’s ability to fight off bacteria.
Your doctor may recommend you for vaccines against the following diseases:
- Haemophilus Influenza B
Your doctor may also prescribe you with antibiotics, especially if you have other conditions that put you at greater risk of developing infections.
Making sure your home is safe for your recovery is essential. For example, removing throw rugs to prevent yourself from tripping and making sure you can use your shower or bath safely. It is recommended that you have someone you trust stay with you for a couple of days until you are able to take care of yourself. You should be able to get back to your normal activities in four to eight weeks. Until that time frame is over you should avoid lifting anything heavy, strenuous activity, and pushing yourself too hard. Taking short walks, using stairs, and doing light housework is okay. It is important to care for your surgical wounds as directed. If your incision is sealed with skin glue, you can shower with soap the day after surgery as long as you pat the area dry. If you have gauze or dressing, change it daily or more and shower only when your doctor says it is okay. If strips of tape are what was used to close your incisions, cover the incisions with plastic wrap before you shower for the first week. Do not try to wash off any tape or glue. It will come out on its own when it is supposed to. Do not under any circumstances soak in a bathtub, hot tub, or go swimming until your surgeon says you can.
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